The FA Women's Premier League Cup
Ludlow levels Leeds
Arsenal 1-0 Leeds Carnegie
The FA Nationwide Women's Premier League Cup
Sunday 4 March 2007
Glanford Park, Scunthorpe United FC
Arsenal won the first silverware of 2007 as they clinched The FA Women's Premier League Cup, overcoming a stubborn Leeds side who banished the memory of their 5-0 defeat to Arsenal last season with a performance to be proud of.
Playing in front of a record crowd for The FA Women's Premier League Cup, 3,688, Arsenal grabbed victory in the closing stages of the match through their captain Jayne Ludlow - but credit must go to Leeds for their spirited display.
The first half was a tight affair as Leeds showed the composure and stubborn temperament that they lacked in the opening period of last season's FA Women's Cup Final. On that day they were behind inside the first two minutes, but that never looked likely here as Julie Chipchase's side came out defiant and detemined to show that they were ready for the big occasions.
With the experience of Gemma Fay providing a reliable last line of defence, it was Leeds' younger contingent who shone through in the opening period of the match as 17-year-old Sophie Bradley marshalled the defence ably and Sophie Walton patrolled the midfield with dogged determination. Bradley would later take the 'Player of the match' award for her display.
The Gunners found opportunities to force their opponents on to the back foot, but unlike last season Leeds stood firm and never looked panicked in defence.
Arsenal almost opened the scoring in the 12th minute from the head of captain Jayne Ludlow. The Welsh midfielder rose highest from a perfect Karen Carney corner but her powerful header crashed off the bar and out for a goal kick.
Two minutes later England's left-footed duo of Rachel Yankey and Kelly Smith almost combined to create a sumptuous goal. Smith lofted a ball out toward Yankey on the right flank who took the ball down before firing a fierce effort just wide of the goal.
Rachel McArthur was then gifted the opportunity to give Leeds an advantage when the wet weather made it difficult for Arsenal to clear their lines. Emma Byrne failed to put sufficient height on her clearance and the ball landed at the feet of McArthur whose snapshot failed to threaten the goal.
After half an hour Sue Smith went close for the Yorkshire club with a left-footed free kick from all of 25 yards. Although Arsenal's Irish keeper Emma Byrne looked concerned the effort drifted narrowly wide of the post and the Gunners looked to build once more.
In the second period Arsenal upped the tempo through Yankey and Carney on either flank, but to their credit Leeds stayed with them all the way. The introduction of Jessica Clarke gave the Whites more pace in attack and Clarke almost made an instant impact when she tried an audacious backheel to pass Anita Asante.
United then had to survive two scares in the space of two minutes with Jess Wright and Sophie Bradley being called into goalline clearances to deny first Smith, then Carney.
Jayne Ludlow grabbed the winning goal in cruel fashion giving Arsenal the victory, but not denying Leeds any credit in a thrilling match. As the game went into stoppage time the Gunners put more and more pressure on the Whites, and Karen Carney's corner provided the winning goal for Ludlow who volleyed home from six yards out.
Gemma Fay, Sophie Bradley, Alex Culvin, Rachel McArthur, Jess Wright, Natalie Preston (C), Nicole Emmanuel, Sue Smith, Sophie Walton, Lucy Ward (Jessica Clarke 64), Karen Burke (Melissa Sutcliffe 74)
Substitutes not used Julie Grundy, Sarah Owen, Carla Tomkins
Emma Byrne, Alex Scott, Mary Phillip, Jayne Ludlow (C), Katie Chapman, Anita Asante, Ciara Grant, Kelly Smith, Lianne Sanderson (Julie Fleeting 66), Karen Carney, Rachel Yankey
Substitutes not used Rebecca Spencer, Gemma Davison, Gilly Flaherty, Sian Larkin
Referee D Roberts